Dave Boling

Bobby Wagner counters football bedlam with inner peace

Seattle Seahawks middle linebacker Bobby Wagner is the first player in team history to record more than 100 tackles in each of five consecutive seasons.
Seattle Seahawks middle linebacker Bobby Wagner is the first player in team history to record more than 100 tackles in each of five consecutive seasons. The Associated Press

Bobby Wagner occupies a position at the intersection of chaos and mayhem, in a vortex where violent acts are committed by 22 men every 30 seconds or so.

And so it is that the Seahawks’ record-setting middle linebacker has learned to create his own place of peace, relying on his daily retreat within the quiet boundaries of his own mind.

As important to Wagner as his bench presses and dumbbell curls, these days, are his times of meditation.


As this involves a regular taking of stock, Wagner has much to appreciate.

He recently became the first defender in Seahawks history to record more than 100 tackles in each of five consecutive seasons.

Nobody has done that. Not Easley, not Kennedy, not Tatupu. Nobody.

And with only 27 more tackles in the final four games, he will set the Seahawks’ franchise single-season record with 154.

He said Wednesday that he had meditated before, but never so consistently, so it’s more effective than ever for him.

“I start off at 10 minutes a day, and if I can go longer, I will,” he said. “It’s to clear the mind, show appreciation, and bring yourself into everything that is happening now. Everybody is so focused on the past or the future, they’re not spending time in the moment. Once you’re in the moment, you can really appreciate where you are and all that’s going on.”

Taking care of the defensive signals and being certain everybody gets the calls and alignments requires a calm and orderly mind.

“It’s symbolic, really, at middle linebacker, you’re in the middle of chaos all the time, and you have to be the one who calms it down and stays in the present,” he said.

The game has changed from the days of the monolithic middle linebacker delivering pain from guard to guard.

Wagner, at 6-0, 241 pounds, is as fast as some wide receivers and plays sideline to sideline — and sometimes 40 yards downfield when the Hawks are in their two-deep zone. It’s this athleticism that allows Wagner to stay on the field every down and not be replaced in sub packages.

“I always go back to what a special athlete he is,” coach Pete Carroll said. “He’s so gifted, so quick and fluid (and) he’s really fast. He’s an expert in our scheme, and he understands the NFL now, the principles and routes and concepts and all that stuff better than ever.”

Likely on his way to his third Pro Bowl and maybe his second first-team All-Pro selection, Wagner has helped lead the 2016 Seahawks to the NFL’s best points-against average, as they’ve sustained the preceding four seasons.

It’s rare to be able to make statistical statements about the impact of a single player in a team sport, but when Wagner missed six games in the heart of the 2014 season, his absence was painfully obvious.

In 10 games when he was in the lineup the entire game and healthy, the Seahawks went 9-1 and held opponents to 12.2 points a game. When he was out, they were 3-3, and opponents averaged 22.0 points a game.

“He’s the best he’s ever been,” Carroll said. “It’s a marvelous testament to the person he is. He’s got great skills, but he’s got great character, too, coming back and keeping his game sharp and growing and maturing with the experience he’s had. He’s a marvelous team player.”

A fairly quiet sort in the locker room and on the field, Wagner is letting his personality show to the public more, taking over Marshawn Lynch’s old gig doing television commercials for a local plumbing company.

“I love doing the ads,” Wagner said. “I like the whole acting thing; it might be something I pursue later on. I show my personality a little more. It takes a while for me to show myself to people, that’s my nature. It’s why I love this team so much. You’ve got loud guys and quiet guys, and everybody is accepted.”

This brotherhood is something else Wagner thinks about when he’s clearing his mind.

“I think you have to stop and take a look at everything and be grateful for what you have and what you’ve done, and show appreciation for it,” he said.

With a clear head and steady focus, Wagner sees himself at the point where his understanding of the game has reached the level of his athleticism and instincts.

“I think I’m still improving,” he said. “I still feel like there’s a lot more out there for me, more levels of this game I can reach.”

But he’d still rather keep his mind in the moment at hand.

Dave Boling: 253-597-8440, @DaveBoling